Clothing, Necessaries, Accoutrements,

for the
Rear and front view of  RE Marching Order 1857

[ . . . ] it must be remembered that for nearly 50 years of the period under Study, the influence of the Duke of Wellington  --although arguably the greatest military leader Britain has yet produced-- kept the British Army in a state of stagnation.  Those who had contributed so much to winning him his enviable reputation were served badly by him in the years after Waterloo and up to his death in 1852.  Determined to maintain his army in the state in which it had won its greatest triumphs, the Duke created a reactionary atmosphere powerful enough to daunt the most ardent reformer.  The Infantry who set sail for the Crimea shortly after his death were clothed, equipped and armed in much the same manner as his Peninsular infantry.  Commanded by Lord Raglan --a protιgι of Wellington who was almost as conservative as the great man himself-- the expedition to Russia was ripe for disaster.  That no major catastrophe ensued was due more to the stoic courage of the common soldier than to the leadership they received.

  Eventually Raglan's death, and public reaction to revelations of military and administrative incompetence, stirred army reforms which were long overdue.  The more glaring deficiencies were put to rights while the Crimean war was still in progress.  The infantry, some of whom had sailed for the war with smooth-bore muskets, were re-equipped with one of the finest rifles of the time, the 1853 pattern Enfield; and unprecedented efforts were made to improve the clothing, diet, shelter, sanitation, and health of the soldier.

  Amidst all this improvement the equipment of the infantry soldier was late coming under scrutiny.  Not until 1871 was the pattern of equipment approved of for issue which equaled the designs current in France and Prussia.  Until then the best that could be done for the British  Infantryman was to modify the shape or size of his knapsack.  In this respect the conservative influence of Wellington died hard; and the consequent suffering of generations of foot-soldiers --at a time when that description was a literal one-- can only be understood fully by reading the medical reports on the discharged certificates of the day.  These men were usually broken in health as much by the cruel burden of their equipment as by conditions of service, some bearing the marks of knapsack straps into old age.  "Pack palsey", a condition caused by the constriction of shoulder belts and knapsack straps, was comma.  The result for many was heart and lung disease in later life.

--Transcribed from British Infantry Equipment - 1808 to 1908, Osprey Man-at-Arms Series

The articles furnished to each man in the Royal Engineers are as follows:

1 Busby - Quadrennially

left side


right side


   A Busby is to last four years.  New busbies and plumes will be supplied to recruits finally approved during the first two years of the period, and part worn busbies during the last two years.

   The busbies of discharged and non-effective men at home are in all cases to be returned into store complete.

   The clothing and busbies of non-effective men in the Royal Engineers abroad are to be sold by auction at the end of each month, and the amount realized credited in the contingent accounts, supported by a certificate of the Commanding Officer.  If unsaleable, they must be handed over to the nearest Storekeeper or Barrack Master.

   At home stations part worn clothing is to be taken into the regimental store and sent to Woolwish by the first favorable opportunity, if fit for issue to recruits; if not fit for use, a fact which is to be determined by the Officers on the spot, it is to be sold by auction, or if unsaleable to be handed over to the nearest Storekeeper or Barrack Master.

• 1 Tunic - Annually
Senior Serjeant's Tunic RE Enlisted Man's Tunic

• 1 pair Boots - Annually 

• 1 pair Trowsers - Annually
• 1 Working Jacket - Annually
Crimea Shell jacket
• 1 pair Working Trowsers - Annually
• 1 pair Working Boots - Annually

Hobnail sole of a work boot
• 1 Forage Cap - Annually
Forage Cap


Rank and File

• Pouches,Cartridge and Expense pouch
1855 Expense Pouch   1861 Expense Pouch
• Belts, pouch, complete
1854 Cap Pouch Enfield Cartridge Box
Interior view
1861 Pattern Percussion Cap Pouch 1854 Enfield Cartridge Pouch
• Belts, waist
Waist Belt
• Frogs, sliding, with buckles and straps
Enfield Frog Buckle
• Carbine slings
• Plates for waist belts
Belt Buckle
  Great Coats for the Royal Engineers will be furnished at the public expense to all Non-commissioned Officers and Men.  Coats for Serjeants shall be furnished without cuffs and Collars, which are to be added at the headquarters of each corps and shall be made of the same quality and colour of the facings of the corps.  Chevrons on the right sleeve may be added at head quarters to the great coats of Serjeants and Corporals.
Great Coat
The above is a Union Regulation Infantry Overcoat dating back to 1864.  It is very similar to the British Army Great Coat.

Photographs from the Collector's Guild Inc.
For more info on the Union Regulation Infantry Overcoat, please see the Collectors' Guild website at:


Taken from Tangled Web Canadian Infantry Accoutrements 1855-1985, printed for Canadian War Museum Historical Publication No 26:

The Mess tins- The Kidney or D-section mess tins were introduced in 1814 and used practically until replaced with aluminum mess tins in 1939.  This must surely be a record for sheer longevity for any item of personal kit in the history of the army.

The semi-cylindrical 3-part mess tin, frequently referred to as a canteen, was 6 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and about 7 inches high.  The three nesting parts consisted of a " top part with a handle for drinking, a shallow centre portion which served as a plate, and a deeper 4-inch section with a handle, which was used as a meat container and a billy can for boiling". 


• Brass Ball, box of
• 1 Mess tin and cover
Mess Tins
• 2 flannel shirts or 3 Cotton shirts
Cotton Shirt

• 1 Knapsack cloth

• 2 Towels
• 2 flannel waistcoats
2 flannel waistcoats
• 1 Tin of Blacking
1 tin of Blacking
• 1 comb
• Sponge, for pipe-clay
• 1 Clasp Knife
• 1 pair gloves (white)
White Gloves
• 1 soap case
• 1 pair braces
Suspender buckles
• 1 holdall
• 1 stock
• 1 clothes brush
• 1 fatigue jacket
• 3 pairs wool stockings
• 1 button brush
• 1 knapsack complete
(aka Trotter)
• 1 button stick
Button Stick
• 1 hair brush
Hair brushes
• 1 knife and Fork
Fork and Knife
• 1 Spoon
• 1 shaving brush with soap
• 1 waterproof bag
Waterproof Bag
• 3 shoe brushes
Shoe Brush
• 1 plume case
Plume and canvas case
• 1 canteen
• 1 razor
Razor and wooden case

Kits will be furnished upon requision addressed to the Secretary of State for War.  They will be supplied complete, with the exception of the boots, fatigue jackets and trousers.  The boots will be furnished in sizes.  The fatigue jackets and trousers will be issued in materials, in order that they may be made up at the Depots and fitted to the recruit.

Winter equipment for North America is to consist of the following articles, viz.: -

• A fur cap
• Two flannel waistcoats
• Two pairs of long flannel or worsted drawers
• A pair of canadian boots
• The fur cap is to last - 3 years
• Canadian boots - 2 years
• Flannel waistcoats - 1 year
• Flannel drawers - 2 years


As No. 4274 Albert Robinson, I enlisted at Westminster on the 9th January 1855, for the 28th Regiment, at the age of 17 years.  On the 16th of the same month I joined the Depot at Parkhurst, Isle of Wight, and was posted to No.4 Company, commanded by Captain Webb (a Waterloo veteran).  The following day I was marched to Newport to obtain my kit from the Army contractor (Isaac & Co.)  After that I drew from the Headquarters Stores a shako, coatee, boots, pair of trousers, and a great coat.  My bounty was £6 from which I had to pay for the following articles of my kit, viz: knapsack straps, mess tin and cover, one pair of boots, one pair of summer trousers, shell jacket, forage cap and number, haversack, 3 white cotton shirts, 2 towels, 2 pairs of socks, one pair of braces, stock and clasp, and holdall complete.  When I mention that the small pipeclay sponge in those days cost 1/- and a tin of blacking 4d. it will be realized that the bounty did not go far.  Every article of kit had to be marked at a cost to the owner of 1/2d. per article. 

Add to this the fact that the older hands made a habit of relieving the recruits of many small articles, and it will be easily understood that frequently at the end of the month, when I paraded to sign my accounts, I found I was in debt. Consequently, when this happened, I was placed on 1d. per diem pay, out of which I had to provide my cleaning materials. Boot repairing was a heavy item, owing to the rough state of the Barrack Square, whilst the Barrack damages (after the departure of a draft) were very high.  In addition we had to pay 2d. per month for sheet washing, and 1d. for haircutting.

--Letter from Albert Robinson